Neonatal seizures pose a clinical challenge for their early detection, acute management, and mitigation of long-term comorbidities. A major cause of neonatal seizures is hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy that results in seizures that are frequently refractory to the first-line anti-seizure medication phenobarbital (PB). One proposed mechanism for PB-inefficacy during neonatal seizures is the reduced expression and function of the neuron-specific K+/Cl- cotransporter 2 (KCC2), the main neuronal Cl- extruder that maintains chloride homeostasis and influences the efficacy of GABAergic inhibition. To determine if PB-refractoriness after ischemic neonatal seizures is dependent upon KCC2 hypofunction and can be rescued by KCC2 functional enhancement, we investigated the recently developed KCC2 functional enhancer CLP290 in a CD-1 mouse model of refractory ischemic neonatal seizures quantified with vEEG. We report that acute CLP290 intervention can rescue PB-resistance, KCC2 expression, and the development of epileptogenesis after ischemic neonatal seizures. KCC2 phosphorylation sites have a strong influence over KCC2 activity and seizure susceptibility in adult experimental epilepsy models. Therefore, we investigated seizure susceptibility in two different knock-in mice in which either phosphorylation of S940 or T906/T1007 was prevented. We report that KCC2 phosphorylation regulates both neonatal seizure susceptibility and CLP290-mediated KCC2 functional enhancement. Our results validate KCC2 as a clinically relevant target for refractory neonatal seizures and provide insights for future KCC2 drug development.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience